Poorest countries in Africa set to wipe out neglected diseases while richest fall behind

Poorest countries in Africa set to wipe out neglected diseases while richest fall behind

The World Health Organization (WHO) calculates that if countries treat and protect more than 75 per cent of people at risk they will beat the diseases.

The analysis, released during this week’s African Union meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, shows there are 15 countries in Africa all beating the 75 per cent target and on track to wipe out the diseases, many of which are in the lowest income bracket.

The tiny country of eSwatini comes top of the chart with 92 per cent of the population at risk on treatment. Malawi is second with 91 per cent of the population on treatment and Mali is third with 90 per cent.

Richer middle-income countries such as South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Botswana were all ranked in the bottom third of the league table. In both South Africa – where nearly 20 million people are at risk of contracting at least one NTD – and Botswana just two per cent of the population in need are receiving treatment or preventive measures, according to the analysis.

However, last year Botswana pledged to use its own domestic resources to eliminate all NTDs within its borders, starting from 2019. And Mozambique – where only 12 per cent of the eligible population are covered – has pledged to spend $6m on the fight against NTDs.

Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, director of control of NTDs at the WHO, said that these diseases trap people in a “Ferris wheel” of poverty.

“Soil-transmitted helminths [intestinal worms] will affect a child as soon as he or she begins to walk, affecting their cognitive capacity so they will be at a disadvantage right from the earliest age. This child will never come out of the cycle of poverty,” she said.

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